Published 3:41 pm Saturday, February 23, 2019
WINTON – In an effort to avoid the public perception of cronyism within the ranks of Hertford County local government, the county’s Board of Commissioners have taken action for the future.
At their regularly scheduled meeting here Monday night, the Commissioners spent 91 minutes in closed session before emerging to offer up a resolution that amends Section II.9 of the Hertford County Personnel Policy. That particular section is entitled Limitation on Employment of Relatives.
The proposed amendment adds a third paragraph to Section II.9 which reads as follows:
“An immediate family member of a sitting County Commissioner shall not serve in any position as an employee of Hertford County in any capacity during the term of a sitting County Commissioner; provided however, this policy does not apply to any employee of Hertford County at the time of enactment of this policy, unless such employee leaves employment and then reapplies. This policy does apply to an individual who is employed by Hertford County, and whose immediate family member is then elected in the future as a County Commissioner; an employee whose immediate family member is elected would be required to resign prior to the newly elected Commissioner taking office.”
The existing portion of Section II.9 outlines the definition of an immediate family member as a spouse, mother, father, brother, sister, child, mother-in-law, father-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, grandchild, step and/or adopted parents or children.
On a motion from Commissioner John Horton, the measure was approved by a 4-0 vote. Commissioner Bill Mitchell did not attend Monday’s meeting due to medical reasons.
“We added this amendment to our existing personnel policy for transparency; we wanted to avoid public perception of cronyism,” said Commission Chairman Ronald Gatling in a later interview. “While we (commissioners) do not hire the county’s employees other than the County Manager, we felt it was necessary to have a policy that moving forward does not allow the immediate family member of a sitting commissioner to be hired as a county employee.
“Everybody was clear on this addition to the personnel policy; there was no intended motive other than it was a good idea to have this amendment added to the existing policy,” Gatling added.
As outlined in county policy, the proposed amendment requires a second reading and approval prior to being implemented. The commissioners will have that second reading at their 7 p.m. meeting on Monday, March 18. (With three commissioners having to attend an out-of-area conference, the regular “first Monday” meeting – originally slated for March 4 – has been canceled.)
Murfreesboro attorney Charles “Chuck” Revelle, who serves as legal counsel to the county commissioners, did offer a brief overview of the proposed amendment.
“Let’s say that a current employee of the county has a spouse or any immediate family member elected as a future commissioner; that employee would have to resign that position before the new commissioner is sworn in,” Revelle explained. “However, this addition to the personnel policy will not affect a current employee of the county whose immediate family member is currently a county commissioner. It only applies to the future, a future election.”
Currently, only one commissioner (Mitchell) has an immediate family member who works for Hertford County Local Government. Monique Mitchell, the commissioner’s wife, is the county’s Information Technology (IT) Director. She was employed on June 1, 2017.
“This new policy is not aimed at any particular individual,” Gatling noted. “As I said before, it’s just a good policy to have in place.”
Hertford County Manager Loria Williams, responding to a question from this newspaper, said there is not a current application/applicant for employment that falls within the proposed amendment.
If approved upon the second reading on March 18, the amendment will be added as a third paragraph to the existing policy. The first two paragraphs are:
Two (2) members of an immediate family shall not be employed in the same administrative department, except by special permission of the Board of County Commissioners.
However, at no time shall two (2) members of an immediate family be employed in county government in which one employee has direct supervision over the other.